I've been meaning to try a risotto with red wine for ages. Sometimes I find the pure white creaminess of a standard risotto a bit boring and monotonous, and was intrigued by the notion of bringing more flavour to it using red wine, as well as creating something dark and delicious. A white risotto goes well with delicate ingredients like seafood or chicken; for a red risotto, I wanted something more meaty. The butcher I normally visit had all sorts of sausages on display, which caught my eye because of their unusual ingredient combinations: pigeon and peach, pheasant and pear, guinea fowl and apricot, duck and mandarin. The pheasant and pear I've tried before, and they were delicious, so this time I went for the duck. I figured the gameyness of duck would go quite well in a sausage. I could have cooked them as they were, with mash, but the red wine risotto occurred to me and I decided to try them together.
I do enjoy experimenting with risotto: it's one of those basic recipes where very little can go wrong. The basic components of a risotto - creamy rice, flavoursome stock, herbs, melting onion and garlic - are so good together that even if you put something completely weird in with them, it's bound to taste halfway decent. Another ingredient I've wanted to try for ages is red radicchio; it's a bitter leaf, a bit like chicory, and I thought it would work very well stirred into my risotto at the end: its sharpness is great at counteracting rich meats like pork or duck.
I cooked the sliced sausages in a pan first before adding the onions, coating them in the sausage fat, and proceeding as I normally would for a risotto, except instead of adding a glass of white wine, I used a glass of red. It turned the rice a lovely russet colour, which I contrasted with some beautiful leaves of my favourite herb, lemon thyme. The lemon note lifts what is otherwise quite a strongly-flavoured, rich dish.
Finally, I shredded the radicchio and stirred it into the almost-cooked risotto, allowing it to wilt in the heat and become slippery. It keeps a slight crunch, rather like the texture of steamed greens, which is a good addition to the soft uniformity of the risotto and the sausages. Sausage risotto works very well, whatever sausages you use: these weren't overly redolent of duck, but they had an interesting flavour and made for a lovely and rather unusual Italian dinner. I reckon venison sausages would work well too, or just your average pork variety. A spicy Italian type like luganega would also be good.
Sausage risotto with red wine and radicchio (serves 4):
- 6 good-quality sausages, of whatever variety you like
- Olive oil and butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 300g risotto rice
- One large glass red wine
- 1 litre chicken stock
- A few sprigs lemon thyme (or normal thyme)
- 1 head of radicchio, shredded
- Parmesan, to serve
Slice the sausages and roll the meat into little balls. Heat some oil in a large pan and fry the sausages until golden. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until softened. Add a knob of butter and melt.
Stir in the risotto rice, coating in the fat. Cook for a minute or so, then pour in the wine. Leave to bubble and reduce, then add a ladleful of hot stock. Wait until all the liquid has been absorbed, then add another ladleful, proceeding until the rice is soft with a little bite to it.
Check the seasoning, and stir in as much lemon thyme as you fancy (I like a lot of it, but I have a penchant for the stuff). Stir in the radicchio and leave to wilt. Add grated parmesan to taste, and serve.